Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Chit Chat

Image - February 2017 (1 of 1)
Chit Chat

Stand your potatoes rose end upwards in a bright, frost free spot.

From February onwards, it’s time to sprout (or ‘chit’) new potatoes, to me, it is the first big signal that starts the gardening year. Put your potatoes in a tray or egg box with the ‘rose’ end, where all the buds are, at the top, keep them at about 7C (45F), then, after four to five weeks on a bright windowsill the shoots should be about 5cm (2”) long and they will be ready for planting. You need to make sure the timing is right, so that they are ready to plant just before the last frosts in your area.  As a precaution, keep a few sheets of newspaper or horticultural fleece on standby and listen to the weather forecast and cover young shoots, if sudden late frosts are forecast.

Plants like peppers, chillies and aubergines which need up to five months to mature should be sown this month. Most gardeners who complain later in the year, that their peppers haven’t ripened, just sowed their seed too late. The third week in February is ideal, mid-March is fine and the first week in April is the limit. Light warm conditions and constant temperatures are needed for germination, so if you are unable to provide for their needs, buy young plants from the garden centre or via the internet later in the year. (This saves space in the greenhouse, too).  Water the surface of a 10cm pot of seed or multipurpose compost with a fine rose, using tepid water and leave it to drain for at least half an hour. Sow the seeds over the surface, six to a pot, then sprinkle a shallow layer of fine grade vermiculite over them. Put the pot in a propagator or airing cupboard at 18-21C (64 -70F) and three weeks later they should have germinated. Transplant when they are large enough to handle by lifting the seedlings gently by a leaf, into a 9cm pot and grow on in the greenhouse at 10-15C. Make sure that there is enough space between the pots so the seedlings don’t become elongated in search of the light. Once the pots are full of roots but not ‘pot bound’ they can be moved into their final growing position in a heated greenhouse in 25cm pots of growing bag compost or growing bags. If the greenhouse is unheated, sow later and don’t plant them out until May

Don’t forget to prune your Wisteria. From early August, last year’s side shoots should have been cut back to 15cm (6”), now it is time to cut them back further, to 2.5-5cm (1-2”) or six buds, any long whippy shoots that developed after summer pruning can be cut back to six buds too.

Now is the ideal time to feed your fruit trees, apply sulphate of potash or bonemeal to white and red currants and grapes, sulphate of ammonia or dried blood to tree fruits and general balanced fertiliser to cherries, grapes, plums, peaches, gooseberries and nectarines.

Happy gardening. Matt